Jagadguru Rāmānandācārya Svāmī Rāmabhadrācārya incarnated in a most pious Sarayupārīṇa Brāhmaṇa family of Vaśiṣṭha Gotra in Shandikhurd village of Jaunpur district in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. He took birth in the wee hours of the Makara Saṅkrānti day of January 14, 1950 (Māgha Kṛṣṇa Ekādaśī, Vikrama Saṃvat 2006), born to mother Śacī Devī Miśra and father Paṇḍita Rājadeva Miśra. He was named as Giridhara (a name of Lord Kṛṣṇa) by a cousin of his paternal grandfather, who was a devotee of Mirābaī.
The one Lord of the universe, Śrī Rāma, wished Giridhara not to see the horrors of Kaliyuga, but regale in the sight of mother Sītā and Lord Rāma through divine internal vision; the very same vision with which Arjuna and Sañjaya saw the universal form of the Lord in the battlefield of Kurukṣetra. At the age of two months, the lotus-eyes of the infant were infected with Trachoma. Modern medicine was unavailable in the village in those days, and local treatment was tried. Giridhara lost his physical eyesight for ever, and has since then perceived everything through his divine sight. He never had to read or write in any way, and nor did he have to ever use the Braille system. Mastering a scripture by listening to just a single recitation and composing beautiful poetry by dictating is nothing for somebody who has the grace of the Lord Rāma.
Giridhara’s initial education was started at home by his grandfather, Paṇḍita Sūryabalī Miśra. With a remarkable memory, Giridhara memorized the entire Bhagavad Gītā in Saṃskṛta (approximately 800 verses) with chapter and verse numbers by the age of five years. By the age of eight years, he had memorized the entire Rāmacaritamānasa of Saint Tulasīdāsa (approximately 10,800 verses) assisted by the efforts of his grandfather. Later, he went on to memorize and master the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, the Bhāgavata Purāṅa, major works of Saṃskṛta grammar, and all works of the poet-saint Tulasīdāsa. His Upanayana Saṃskāra was performed on the Nirjala Ekādaśī day of June 24, 1961. On this day, besides being given the Gāyatrī Mantra, he was initiated (given Dīkṣā) into the mantra of Rāma by Paṇḍita Īśvaradāsa Mahārāja of Ayodhyā.
In 1966, a teenaged Giridhara Miśra joined the Ādarśa Gauriśaṅkara Saṃskṛta Mahāvidyālaya in Jaunpur to study Saṃskṛta grammar and other subjects for five years. Possessing the Ekaśruta ability to remember everything which one listens to once, he topped his class for five years. In 1971, the handsome and young Giridhara enrolled at the Sampūrṇānanda Saṃskṛta Viśvavidyālaya in Vārāṇasī for higher studies. In 1973, he visited New Delhi to participate in various national-level Sanskrit competitions in the Akhila Bhāratīya Saṃskṛta Adhiveśana, and won five gold medals in Vyākarana, Sāṅkhya, Nyāya, Vedānta and Antyākṣarī. Impressed by his unparalleled genius, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi offered to send him to the USA for treatment of eyes, but Giridhara Miśra politely turned down this offer. In 1973 and 1976 respectively, he topped the Śāstrī (Bachelors) and Ācārya (Masters) examinations in Vyākaraṇa from the Sampūrṇānanda Saṃskṛta Viśvavidyālaya with gold medals. In an unprecedented move, he was declared Ācārya of all subjects taught at the university for his all-round scholarship. Working with Paṇḍita Rāmaprasāda Tripāṭhī, he completed his doctoral Vidyāvāridhi degree (PhD) in 1981 from Sampūrṇānanda Saṃskṛta Viśvavidyālaya with the Saṃskṛta dissertation titled Adhyātmarāmāyaṇe Apāṇinīyaprayogānāṃ Vimarśaḥ, a deliberation on non-Paninian usages in the Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇe. Later in 1997 he was awarded the post-doctoral Vācaspati degree (DLitt) by the same university for the Saṃskṛta dissertation Aṣṭādhyāyyāḥ Pratisūtraṃ Śābdabodhasamīkṣaṇam, in which he explained the grammar of Aṣṭādhyāyī in lucid verses.
Dr. Giridhara Miśra did not enter into matrimony, and has followed Vīravrata – the vow of the brave – lifelong Brahmacarya. He took Vairagī initiation (Virakta Dīkṣā) in the Rāmānanda Sampradāya on the Kārtika full-moon day of November 19, 1983. Following the tradition of the Sampradāya, he was given an apt Vaiṣṇava name – Rāmabhadrādāsa, meaning the servant of the auspicious Rāma. In 1987, he established Tulasī Pīṭha (the seat of Tulasī, the plant dear to Vaiṣṇavas) at Citrakūṭa, modern-day Uttar Pradesh, where Lord Rāma spent twelve out of his fourteen years of exile. As the founder of the seat, the title of Śrīcitrakūṭatulasīpīṭhādhīśvara was bestowed upon him by saints and intellectuals.
Jagadguru (Saṃskṛta, literally the preceptor of the world), is a term used in the Sanātana Dharma used for somebody who possesses complete knowledge and understanding of Vedic scriptures. The term has traditionally been conferred upon Ācaryas of Vedānta who composed Saṃskṛta commentaries on the three principal scriptures of Vedānta (also called the Prasthānatrayī) — the Brahma Sūtra, the Bhagavad Gītā and the principal Upaniṣads). In medieval history, there were six such Ācaryas who were bestowed with the title of Jagadguru — Śaṅkarācārya, Nimbārkācārya, Rāmānujācārya, Madhvācārya, Rāmānandācārya and Vallabhācārya. After Vallabhācārya, the Jagadguru tradition in Vedānta was lost – nobody wrote Saṃskṛta commentaries on the Prasthānatrayī for the next five centuries.
Jagadguru Rāmānandācārya founded the Rāmānanda Sampradāya and composed the Ānandabhāṣya on the Prasthānatrayī. He was Lord Rāma’s incarnation in Kaliyuga.
। रामानन्दः स्वयं रामः प्रादुर्भूतो महीतले ।
The successors of Rāmānandācārya are bestowed with the title of Jagadguru Rāmānandācārya. Svāmī Rāmabhadrādāsa was chosen as Jagadguru Ramānandācārya in 1989, and was ritually anointed in Ayodhya on August 1, 1995. He then wrote Saṃskṛta commentaries titled Śrīrāghavakṛpābhāṣya on Brahma Sūtra, Bhagavad Gītā and eleven Upaniṣads. Svāmī Rāmabhadrācārya thus revived the Jagadguru tradition after 500 years, and also gave the Rāmānanda Sampradāya its second interpretation of Vedānta (after Ānandabhāṣya).
As a young child, Giridhara used to compose poetry in Prākṛta and Saṃskṛta effortlessly. While learning from his grandfather, he used to compose verses reflecting his emotions and view on the subject. Throughout his life, Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya speaks 22 languages, and is a spontaneous composer and poet (Āśukavi) in many Indian languages. He has to-date composed more than 80 Granthas and innumerable minor works. His magna opera include four epic poems; commentaries on Prasthānatrayī, Aṣṭādhyāyī and Rāmacaritamānasa; and a critical edition of the Rāmacaritamānasa.
Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya, who has himself been through the harsh ways our society treats the disabled, took a decision to establish an institution of higher learning solely for the disabled. After starting a primary and secondary school for the differently-abled, he established the Jagadguru Rambhadracharya Handicapped University in Chitrakut in 2002. Svāmī Rāmabhadrācārya is the life-long chancellor of the university. The university offers graduate and post-graduate courses in Sanskrit, Hindi, English, Sociology, Psychology, Music, Drawing and Painting, Fine Arts, Special Education, Education, History, Culture & Archeology, Computer & Information Sciences, Vocational Education, Law, Economics and Prosthetics & Orthotics. The education is provided at nominal cost to visually impaired, hearing impaired and mobility impaired students as defined by the Disability Act of the Government of India, 1995. To date Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya guides the day-to-day functioning of the university.
In the year 2003, Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya deposed as an expert witness for religious matters in the Allahabad High Court. As the infant Rāma is a minor, Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya, being a descendant of sage Vaśiṣṭha and thus a Brāhmaṇa from the Gurukula of Lord Rāma, defended the Lord in the case. Portions of his affidavit and cross-examination are quoted in the final judgement by the High Court. In his affidavit, he cited the ancient Hindu scriptures (Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, Rāmatāpanīya Upaniṣad, Skanda Purāṇa, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda, et cetera) describing Ayodhyā as a city holy to Hindus and the birthplace of Rāma. He cited verses from two works of Tulasīdāsa – eight verses from the Dohā Śataka which describe the destruction of a temple and construction of mosque at the disputed site in 1528 CE, and one verse from Kavitāvalī which mentions the disputed site. Refuting the theory of the original temple being to the North of the disputed area (as pleaded by the pro-mosque parties), he described the boundaries of the Janmabhūmi as mentioned in the Ayodhyā Māhātmya section of Skanda Purāṇa, which tallied with the present location of disputed area as noted by Justice Sudhir Agarwal. The verdict on September 30, 2010, ruled in the favour of Lord Rāma – the prayers of crores of Hindus were answered, and Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya’s testimony was vindicated.
The Rāmcaritamānasa, consisting of around 10,800 verses, was composed by Tulasīdāsa in the late sixteenth century. Over 400 years, it became extremely popular in northern India. Numerous editions of the epic are in existence, including older editions like the Venkatesh Press and Khemraj Prakashan editions, and newer editions like the Gita Press, Motilal Banarsidass, Kaudorama, Rameshvara Bhatta, Jvalaprasad, Kapurthala and Patna editions. Commentaries include Mānasapīyūṣa, Mānasagūḍhārthacandrikā, Mānasa-mayaṃka, Vināyakī, Vijayā and Bālabodhinī. There are many places where these editions differ in the number of verses, the original text, and spelling and grammar. Some editions, including the Motilal Banarsidass edition, contain an additional eighth Kanda as a supplement. In the twentieth century, critical editions of the Mahābhārata and Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa were published by Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute and Maharaja Sayajirao University, but no critical edition was available for the Rāmcaritamānasa, an epic of similar importance for crores of Hindus. Svamī Rāmabhadrācārya, who has done more than 4,000 recitations of the entire Rāmcaritamānasa since childhood, took upon this onus. He came out with a critical edition of the Rāmcaritamānasa, after studying as many as fifty different editions during eight years of his research. This edition is known as the Tulsi Peeth edition and was printed in 2006. It is believed by the Rāghava Parivāra to be the exact word of Tulasīdāsa.
Saint, commentator, poet, visionary, leader, orator, singer, educationist, reformer, example for the disabled — the list is endless. नेति नेति Not thus, not thus. No description of Jagadguru Rāmabhadrācārya can be ever perfect and complete. He is the saint of our times and we are honoured to see him in flesh and blood.